Family Friendly Style

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Nov 28, 2008

Busy lives, hectic schedules and the need for designated MFF (mandatory family fun) time demand that we carve out a special spot for unwinding, playing, and just plain hanging out. Once dubbed the "rumpus room" or "rec room," today's newfangled family rooms have something for everyone.
Family Friendly Style

The rumpus rooms of my youth were more like padded cells than stylish add-ons to a home (it was usually a subterranean room full of toys and games, lacking in any manner of style, and generally a place where children ran wild and no adult wanted to hang out). The reason it's called a family room today stems from the fact that it offers a little something for everyone (if properly orchestrated).

When revamping my 60s back-split I decided to rethink the layout of the lower level in the hopes of creating a true dynamo of family friendly — yet design-minded —style. I started by knocking out all two bedrooms and a hall to capture a great open space measuring 15 by 24 feet. Next, I added a walkout to allow an easy flow of traffic from the main floor out to the backyard, pool and cabana.

While I was in the knock down tear out phase, I also re-jigged a three-piece bathroom to create a funky powder room and secondary coat/storage cupboard to support the front entry which is just steps away. Once I'd spent a healthy chunk of renovation budget on the structural changes, it was time to dress it up and get it ready to entertain on a budget.

Compare And Contrast

I only like to do things once. After I've experimented with a colour scheme, I'm not keen to repeat it (after all, where's the creativity and fun in just repeating?) If you are tackling the family room, it means you likely have another living room filled with sofas, chairs, drapes and pillows, so there is no sense in just creating a repeat performance. If the living room is light, why not make the family room dark; If one is muted, why not make the other bold; If one is traditional why not go more contemporary?

I always like my living rooms light and pretty and tending slightly to more feminine shapes and curves, so the family room offers the perfect opportunity for chunky furnishings and bold, masculine colours. This division of dark and light is particularly well suited to this pair of rooms as we tend to be on our best behaviour when hosting guests in the living room and rather, um, relaxed, when slouching on the sofa in front of the TV.

Family Friendly Style

Table Time

You might think it odd to put a small dining table in the family room. You might think it steals valuable space for a reclining chair. I think it's an ideal solution for a multipurpose room (and let's face it folks, there's slim to no chance of me ever inviting any La-Z-Boy, real or upholstered, into my home).

Hear me out on this. I completely accept that not all meals can be consumed while seated at the dining room table — it just doesn't happen that way in most households. But not eating in the dining room doesn't mean you have to slide all the way downhill to full fledged "couch potato" status. Why not heighten the style factor of your TV dinners and dine around a small table as though you were at your favourite neighbourhood bar, bistro or pub? Prioritizing space for this type of table will also give you a convenient place to use a laptop, an arts and crafts space for the kids, and the ultimate games table for both young and old (from Monopoly to poker nights, this one does it all!)

Stash And Hide

There's only rule for how to make sure your family room doesn't become over run with toys and kids paraphernalia — you must have proper storage (and preferably lots of it). I knew my budget wouldn't allow for custom built-ins, so I decided to seek out an alternative. What I landed on was awesome — gorgeous, high gloss Macassar ebony wall units that were as kind on my pocketbook as they were fabulous to look at (psst … they are actually just a laminate but in a dark finish. In my dark and sultry media room, no one will ever be the wiser). With big doors and open cubbies, it means that clean up time is a breeze.

Family Friendly Style

Double Feature

You've seen plenty of "feature" walls in bold colours (or wallpaper) in the past few years, but you don't have to limit your statement to a single hit. I chose to go with a dark chocolate matte finish paint on the two end walls of the room. The giant TV all but disappears against this super rich shade, and the length of the room is visually pulled in by putting the deep shade on opposite ends. To add another hit of colour, I lifted a soft blue from the striped fabric on the chairs and used it for the ceiling. It's a subtle tie-in to the fabrics and accessories in the room and far more interesting than plain ol' vanilla!

Go Easy On The Chocolates!

I wanted my media/family room to feel earthy, masculine and moody, but I wasn't trying to create a cave for winter hibernation. Instead of using chocolate for the upholstery fabrics and drapes, I opted to use the darkest hues as accents.

A rich cocoa rug will hide all manner of stains and provides a plush texture underfoot. The dark walnut stain on the floor continues through the rest of the house and the walls, cabinets, console and side table provide enough darkness to satisfy the macho mood of the media room.

Lighten The Mood

The last touch to warm the senses was the addition of caramel toned accents. The coffee table and games table provide a lighter contrast to the dark woods in a light teak finish and the end tables for the sofa feature patinated copper tops. My rule of thumb for mixing wood tones is that it's okay to have two distinctly different woods as long is there is repetition of each so your room doesn't look like a garage sale!

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